To say that my teaching and leadership have been transformed by CTQ and the Teacher Leaders Network (TLN) would be an understatement. My teaching and leadership have been made by CTQ and TLN.
When I think of how I have grown as a result of engagement with the CTQ-niverse, this proverb comes to mind: “I am who I am because of who we are.”
I entered the teaching profession through Teach For America with just five weeks of crash course instructional experience. Though I had tremendous support from colleagues while I was in the classroom, I had none of the pedagogical foundations required to sustain a career. I left the classroom after a few years because I was ill-equipped as a practitioner to meet the needs of my students, and I had none of the leadership skills that I would need to transform my school, let alone public education.
I left the classroom after a few years because I was ill-equipped as a practitioner to meet the needs of my students, and I had none of the leadership skills that I would need to transform my school, let alone public education.
CTQ changed all of that by connecting me with accomplished teachers who leveraged their classroom expertise in order to transform schools, systems, and the narrative on how public education shapes communities and society.
After a decade of deep work with CTQ as both a teacher and a full-time staff member, I returned to the classroom this year with a crowded toolbox of instructional strategies, engaging content, and practical resources. More importantly, my instruction is now enhanced by a professional learning network that consists of the best teachers in the country.
I am experimenting with Open Way Learning because of what I have learned from Ben Owens and his work at Tri-County Early College. I am using surveys to monitor my relationships with students and to get their feedback on my teaching because of Bill Ferriter. I am using templates from the Literacy Design Collaborative because I’ve seen how NBCTs like Nancy Gardner, Rod Powell, and Lauren Hill use them to elevate their instruction. I keep up with #EduColor to learn from advocates of color like Jose Vilson and Val Brown about how I can tackle difficult conversations about race and poverty in my classroom. And I am using the years of connecting with accomplished practitioners in the Teacher Leaders Network to connect with educators in other spaces to support my instruction.
I follow #EduProtocols to keep up with strategies for remixing instruction to capitalize on the creativity and ingenuity of students. I joined the Big History Project’s Yammer community, where I go on a weekly basis to steal ideas for bringing 13.8 billion years of history and science to life. Our class is currently working on an Ancient Explorers of Instagram project to imagine how Columbus, Magellan, Pizarro, and Vespucci might have used social media to publicize and raise money for their exploits.
I am grateful everyday for how the connections to accomplished teachers and leaders guided my teaching career to come full circle. The lack of appropriate preparation and disillusionment that initially drove me from the classroom ultimately resulted in my returning as a National Board Certified Teacher with a set of leadership, facilitation, and instructional skills that I wouldn’t have otherwise developed.
None of this would have been possible without the connections fostered by CTQ and TLN. Now, anything is possible because of the support and collective wisdom of that community and so many others that have flourished.
If you are reading this, then you are likely connected in some capacity with professional learning communities that stretch beyond your school or district. But what about the teachers in your building who have yet to reap the benefits of such community — how might you blend your online network with the faces you see in the hallway everyday? To think about it another way, what shifts in teaching and leadership might the students of that teacher be missing out on?
Take a chance. Send them an invitation to a community, Twitter chat, or resource hub. CTQ took a chance on me, and that has made all the difference.
Kristoffer’s post is part of CTQ’s latest blogging roundtable: It’s a network, not a clique – A CTQ retrospective. To join the conversation, comment on this blog and read the other blogs in this series. You can find an updated list of all posts on the roundtable landing page. Follow CTQ on Facebook and Twitter to see when each new blog is posted, and use #CTQCollab to join the conversation on social media.